Social democratic parties have had a difficult time adjusting to the internet age. They have severe difficulties in understanding in what way – positive and negative – online technologies penetrate people’s lives. The age structure of parties is an additional obstacle as different generations tend to use the internet differently.
When parties have dealt with online issues, they tended to look at the downsides of the web: illegal pornography, hate websites, breaches of copyright and so on. The misguided “Netzsperre” censorship policy of the SPD in Germany was one example of this (I know people who left the party because of that).
Even though the above issues are serious and we have to work on how to address them, I think it is wrong that this focus determines our general approach to internet questions.
Without neglecting the negatives, social democratic parties need to develop a positive internet policy narrative highlighting the revolutionary advances the internet has brought and that by far outweigh the negatives.
To start off, here are a few general ideas:
– Internet access should be a human right and social democratic parties should actively advocate the rollout of the internet to the corners of the planet where people are still largely offline
– In Europe we should advocate the rollout of high-speed broadband everywhere and guarantee access to it
– Accept and use the community building power of social networking tools and embrace the way in which they connect people and give them a voice against oppression (see Iran)
– Embrace social network technologies to develop an honest discussion with society and be open to new ideas.
– Use internet technologies to campaign for specific policies that are likely to have broad public support
– Advocate ways in which such campaigns are legally and institutionally linked into the official decision-making processess (petitions that prompt some form of action)
– The internet enables a new policy of knowledge equality. If access is generally available, we should support efforts to make as much knowledge as possible freely available. This will enable people to inform and educate themselves at no cost. Projects such as Google’s book scanning are controversial in terms of copyright, but the general principle should be to provide as much knowledge as possible for free.
These are just a few ideas off the top of my head. What we really need is a broader debate to develop a positive social democratic internet policy.